LONDON — Police, politicians and community leaders called for calm Wednesday to avert a breakdown in relations between black and South Asian communities, after three South Asian men were killed by suspected looters, as riots continue to spread throughout Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to crack down on rioters and restore order on Britain’s streets, as 16,000 police officers flooded the capital for a second day. He promised not to let a “culture of fear” take hold.
“We needed a fight-back, and a fight-back is under way,” Mr. Cameron said in a somber televised address outside his Downing Street office after a meeting of the nation’s crisis committee.
He said “nothing is off the table,” including water cannons, commonly used in Northern Ireland, but never deployed in mainland Britain. He has also authorized use of nonlethal plastic bullets.
A public opinion survey for the Sun newspaper Wednesday found that 9 out of 10 British adults support the use of water cannons and one-third support the use of live ammunition to bring order back to the streets.
Mr. Cameron has recalled Parliament from its summer recess for an emergency debate Thursday on the riots that began over the weekend when police killed an unarmed mixed-race man in London.
In Birmingham, England’s second-largest city, police Wednesday launched a murder investigation after a hit-and-run driver Tuesday killed three South Asian men patrolling the streets to protect their neighborhood. The occupants of the car that struck them were reportedly black.
The victims - brothers Shazad Ali, 32, and Abdul Mussavir, 30, and Haroon Jahan, 21 - were among some 80 young men who took to the streets to defend their community after looters tried to attack a nearby gas station Monday night.
Eyewitness Mohammed Shakiel told reporters the car that struck the three men sped off at about 50 miles per hour.
“They lost their lives for other people, doing the job of the police. They weren’t standing outside a mosque, a temple, a synagogue or a church,” Mr. Shakiel said.
“They were standing outside shops where everybody goes. They were protecting the community.”
Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon Jahan, pleaded with the South Asian community against seeking revenge on the car’s occupants.
“Today, we stand here to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our community to stand united,” he said.
“This is not a race issue. The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of the community, all races, all faiths and backgrounds.”
Birmingham Muslims packed a local civic hall Wednesday to urge police to take the job of protecting the community seriously.